When it comes to learning to lift, there’s no one we’d rather learn from than the UK’s Fittest Man. We asked Zack George to give us a crash course on performing the perfect squat clean, as well as how to avoid some common mistakes.
Squat cleans are tricky, and lifting without proper form is likely to have you on the fast track to injury. Athlete Zack George has broken the squat clean down into four simple steps, so follow those and the video below for a masterclass in lifting.
How to perform the perfect squat clean
Before you even get the barbell off the ground, think about your grip. Zack suggests to always hold the barbell in a hook grip. “A normal grip is a lot weaker. In a hook grip, your fingers are over your thumbs, which gives you a much stronger grip.”
To start the lift, you want your feet directly under your hips, the barbell nice and close to your shins and shoulders over the bar. Keep your weight in the mid–foot, your back nice and straight, and chest up. As you begin to lift, push your knees back and bring the barbell up to your knees, and push the shoulders up.
Zack mentions that the most common mistakes here are pushing the knee back too quick and keeping the shoulders in the same position throughout the movement, which is a weak position for your lower back and hamstrings, or lifting their back up too early without moving their legs, which will cause strain on the back.
The next step in the lift is to bring the bar into your hip position. Keep your feet hip-width apart. With the barbell close to the shins, load your hamstrings and as you pass your knees bring it up to your thighs and stand up.
“People tend to keep the bar too far away when they’re loading the hamstrings and leave a big gap between the thigh and the barbell.,” Zack says, “if you’re trying to lift a lot of heavy weight and you have a big gap between the body and the bar, it’ll cause a lot more strain on the back to be able to hold that weight.”
Having performed the previous motions, it’s time for the triple extension. This involves your ankles, hips, and shoulders all fully extending. “Everything drives up,” Zack explains, “this is where the power comes from.
“Where people go wrong with this is that they tend to drive their hips forward as they come up into the triple extension. If you’re driving the bar forward, you’ll end up having to jump forward. Driving upwards helps you to get under the bar properly,” he adds.
To finish the clean, you’ll need to drop yourself under the barbell. There are two ways you can catch the bar.
“I like to hold it in a full fist,” says Zack, “I’m quite mobile in my shoulders as I do this every day. This method creates a nice tension in the upper and middle back.
“If you struggle with mobility, you can catch the bar in your fingertips. But because you’re not holding the bar, you’ll lose a little tension in the upper back.
“When you squat, you’ll want to make sure the weight is in the heels, you’re sitting back, and that your hip crease is breaking knee height, so you’re nice and low in the squat.
“A lot of people will catch [the bar] and drive their knees forward, and have to readjust before they go into the squat,” Zack explains.
And one more thing- always look up. “If you look down the body tends to follow where you’re looking, so keep that body and head upright all the way through.”
Think you’re ready to give it a go? Watch the video below to see the steps in action.
Read more about Zack George and our Raw Training Collection below.